Farewell Cliff

Sabermetrically inclined analysts like myself are usually tagged with the label of not caring about the “intangibles” or “immeasurable” of certain players. That’s untrue. I’m quite aware that chemistry, leadership, and all that jazz exist, however their affects on winning and general player value are where I differ from those who preach the stuff. As most of you know, I’m a Rays fan and having experienced Cliff Floyd in 2008, I figured I’d bring that perspective to the table while analyzing the move.

Let’s be frank. Floyd makes no sense for the San Diego Padres purely as a player. His knees and ailing body have all but eliminated his ability to field. Last season Floyd touched a glove in spring training perhaps five times, it wasn’t his but instead shortstop Reid Brignac’s, he played catch with Evan Longoria for five tosses then gave the glove back to Brignac and declared he was finished for the day. During short his Rays career he played in 80 games, all as either a designated hitter or pinch hitter.

The Padres all ready have a young left fielder in Chase Headley, a young and extremely underexposed first baseman in Adrian Gonzalez, and a pretty talented right fielder in Brian Giles. This suggests Floyd will become a pinch hitter and feel good clubhouse leader type, and that’s exactly what he’ll bring to the Padres. Floyd only hit 11 homeruns last year, but I’ll never forget the one he hit on May 30th against Chicago.

Scott Linebrink entered the game in the bottom of the 9th while the scored was tied at one apiece. Floyd would take the first pitch for a called strike, and the second ball way out of the field, winning the game and doing what his knees do best – jog – around the bases as his teammates – all ecstatic for a victory, but clearly appreciating who hit the ball – gathered at home. Then Rays announcer Joe Magrane described it as “Daddy coming home.”

That’s not too far off. The local media maligned B.J. Upton for not hustling, the home crowd booed him, and Joe Maddon benched him for failing to hustle on groundballs. It would’ve been easy for Floyd to question Upton’s love of the game or desire to be the best, but in typical Floyd fashion, he spoke in support of Upton, and promised that he would help him overcome the obstacle. Upton and Floyd were nearly inseparable in the dugout as the elder acted as a mentor for one of the Rays most talented youngsters.

It wasn’t just Upton either, during spring workouts, when the articles about improved chemistry were freshly printed, Carl Crawford, Upton, and others would gather around Floyd, playfully engaging the veteran as if he were their big brother. Floyd would even bemoan the fact that this was Crawford’s team and locker room before calling him Superman.

Floyd is not going to help the Padres win many games next year. There’s a perfectly correct case to make that the Padres should be taking shots on high-upside players rather than playing the twilight of Floyd’s career. I agree with that and Floyd would be better suited to serve as a coach with San Diego, but even still I’ll miss Cliff Floyd the person next year.

Even if I won’t miss Cliff Floyd the player.

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15 years ago

Love your writing R.J. I posted a link on my site. Keep up the great work.